Melvin Gray

will remember Furber and Worsley as local singing pop stars from the 60s , and who coincidentally also came here from England at a young age .
Lianos was a mentor and father figure to Laurel Lea , an attractive singing heartthrob of the early 60s who continued to perform until sadly dying of leukemia , aged just 49 .
It was a short showbiz sideline career for apprentice carpenter , Melvin .
“ I was called up for national service before being medically discharged after 18 months ,” he said .
Fast forward a few decades and Melvin set out on the community service that has been his real life ’ s work .
As part of his recuperation from the effects of hard yakka , Melvin decided to take up cycling , and it didn ’ t start well .
“ I bought my first bike on New Year ’ s Eve and broke it about three months later ,” he said , but he got another bike , persevered and in conjunction with Blacktown Rotary , planned to raise funds for health research .
He hit on a plan - ride from Blacktown to Bourke as a fundraiser .
“ I ’ ll never forget the date of my first big ride - September 8 , 2005 ,” he said ,
So away he went , accompanied by his Blacktown Rotary support crew , who joked he ’ d give up after the first steep climb up the Blue Mountains .
He took the first hill , the second hill and every following hill and cycled the 860km from Blacktown to Bourke in eight days .
“ Then I did Broken Hill to Blacktown and later , Blacktown to Bega ,” Melvin said .
The obvious question was to ask whether they stayed at B and Bs ?
“ No , we booked accommodation in each town and the majority gave us great discounts or in some cases free ,” he said .
On its own , that would be fundraising hard yakka enough to earn an OAM and a paid holiday return to Brighton , but there ’ s the other half . The Blacktown Council citation read : “ Through his involvement with the Rotary Club of Blacktown City , Melvin introduced the ‘ Adopt a Road Campaign ’ program to Blacktown City Council 20 years ago .
“ This program brings the community together to voluntarily ‘ adopt ’ a road and take pride by tidying it up and keeping it clean .
“ Nothing says ‘ community pride ’ more than a clean streetscape , and the benefits this provides to the environment has been plentiful thanks to Melvin ’ s leadership with this initiative .” How did Melvin get the idea ? “ My wife Jan and I were on holiday and were driving through the Hunter Valley ,” he said .
“ We noticed the streets were pristine clean , and then a sign that read that it was an initiative from the local mining company .
“ It took 12 months for the plan to go through council , and then Rotary would have a clean-up on several Sundays ,” he said , adding residents also became enthused and the results were obvious .
“ COVID and work on Blacktown Road has slowed us down ,” he said , but the
initiative was still streets ahead . Melvin is lucky he ’ s still ahead because in 2021 , after tests on his specialist ’ s urging , he was booked in for surgery . “ She said I would have ended up in a wheelchair if I hadn ’ t had it done ,” he said .
Now this remarkable man is planning another ride in the future - 12 hours on a stationary bike as part of a fundraiser at Blacktown Workers Club .
He was talking , and enthusiastically , two days before the Winter Solstice on June 22 when the night before , Blacktown Rotary emulated a Winter Solstice highly successful fundraising event , the same held last year by Albury Rotary Club .
The local one was held be at Blacktown Showground on June 21 , the day before the Winter Solstice .
“ There were three speakers , lots of entertainments , stalls , dancing , the SES and others ,” Melvin said .
“ We had a survivors ’ suicide guide . Nobody wanted to listen to something like that 10-15 years ago .
“ One of the speakers was Mick Newling and he ’ s inspirational . He lost his brother to suicide , and attempted suicide himself and I ’ ve had my dark times as well .”
And Melvin made a showbiz comeback at the event . Singing House of the Rising Sun , Hallelujah , Amazing Grace and I
Still Call Australia Home , and he was accompanied by a piper .
Melvin hadn ’ t realised bagpipes were played in just one key though . There followed an old muso ’ s discussion of what key adjustments he ’ d have to make .
Apologies . He had to go - he can still drive and was off to Pilates , and a new initiative is coming stay tuned - he is repairing damaged bikes to be given out to the public .
Gray wasn ’ t singing Land of Hope and Glory or There ’ ll Always be an England at the solstice .
He ’ s long called Australia home and loves the place and Blacktown .
BLACKTOWN CITY INDEPENDENT theindependentmagazine . com . au ISSUE 28 // JULY 2023 7